In a perfect world, all of our favorite companies would get along merrily. But sadly, we do not live in a perfect world. Icon, the company behind some of the most lust-worthy vintage off-roaders and street machines in existence, is accusing toymaker Mattel of stealing the FJ40 Baja Edition design for a Hot Wheels die cast toy. According to the most recent Icon newsletter, Hot Wheels lifted a photo of the heavily modified FJ40, slathered a quick Photoshop job over the image and called it a day. Except Mattel reportedly never asked Icon for permission to use the image or the vehicle design in its marketing or products.

Icon reportedly reached out to Mattel to no avail. That's about when the custom builder turned to its lawyers, prompting the attorney for Hot Wheels to say the company wanted to settle the matter out of court. A month went by before Icon once again tried to reach out. Mattel allegedly dismissed Icon, effectively challenging the smaller company to try to sue the toy monolith if Icon thought it stood a chance.

Hot Wheels hasn't spoken out on the issue. With five of the tiny diecasts on our desk and five hundred in a box downstairs, we've had a life-long relationship with the toymaker. But that doesn't excuse the reported bully tactics. Here's hoping this one gets squared away sooner rather than later. Check out an excerpt from the Icon newsletter below.

UPDATE: Designer, Founder and Owner of Icon 4x4, Jonathan Ward, released the following statement to Autoblog.

The issue is that they stole the image, took many unique design details and trade dress elements unique to ICON, and used the Federally filed Trademark without permission, then tried to play bully to make the issue disappear. They offered us $1,500 dollars to go away. I know big fish like to dine on little fish, but I do not feel this is good business ethics. I reached out to HW about six months before they released the range of models and launched the series with my image on their website. After our cease and desist letter, they promptly removed the image. They never replied to my email, which had included that very same copy protected image. Also, I am not a rich man. My wife and I built this brand from nothing but sweat and tears. I am proud to employ skilled American workers and provide them a great place to work with fine benefits, and we take pride to build our vehicles with the best possible content. It adds up and they are expensive. I wish they were cheaper but we build the best we can, and then sell it at a fair and reasonable business margin. Plenty of companies start with a price target, then build to meet that. A lot of design and quality value gets lost that way.

- JW ICON


UPDATE 2: Hooniverse has received a response from Hot Wheels.
Show full PR text
Shame on Hot Wheels / Mattel!!!

Now we have a less charming story related to how companies can be run. Whereas we have tried to build a company that is a true reflection of our passion and accountability, not all are built as such. As a lifetime fan of Hot Wheels, imagine our initial excitement when we received several emails from friends congratulating us on the Hot Wheels deal. "Hot wheels deal, what Hot Wheels deal?" , I said. So we went to their website and saw they were releasing a new FJ40 model. As I studied their details, and even their launch rendering, I quickly realized that they based it on our ICON FJ40 Baja Edition. Other than some ugly colors and logos, it was our design, trademark and trade dress. Actually, their photo was a quick rendering over a PR shot of me jumping one of our Baja's in the desert. You can even see my balding head still in the truck!

So then I innocently asked a friend who used to work there, "what's up?" He said they must have made an honest mistake, and advised me to reach out to the current Director of Design for Hot Wheels, Alec Tam. I sent him a few emails and never got a response. So then I called and got a belittling voicemail where he basically told me to take a hike and that there was no validity to my claim. So much for a friendly discussion... So after a few legal letters back and forth, their attorney said that they wished to settle this out of court, and they asked for thirty days to collect data related to how many had been distributed. So on day 31... we reached out to them again. This time they said if you think you have a claim, sue us. You guys are a small company and we are a big one, so go ahead and try! Sad to see such a great brand run in such a manner, isn't it? We lack the funds to pour into a legal case to defend our mark and ! I thought this story was worth sharing. Any TM lawyers out there interested in helping us right this wrong? Shame on you Hot Wheels! Consider these facts when you make your next relevant purchase...


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 63 Comments
      turbomonkey2k
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm pretty sure that Icon is a legal double amputee in this particular matter.
      AE86
      • 2 Years Ago
      umm yea they could have changed it some... i mean ho wheels left all the little details lol
      xhyundaiguy
      • 2 Years Ago
      I emailed Hot Wheels and got this: "Thank you for contacting us. We appreciate the opportunity to respond. Mattel respects the intellectual property of others and takes these types of allegations very seriously. We strongly disagree with the allegations from JW Motion and the facts they have presented. In particular, the artist's concept illustration that has been publicized was not intended to be an accurate representation of the actual HOT WHEELS Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 toy vehicle that Mattel eventually produced. We had previously been in dialogue with ICON's attorney for a period of about six months regarding this; however we have not heard from them since our last communication nearly four months ago. Mattel's HOT WHEELS Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 toy vehicles are produced by Mattel under license from the Toyota Motor Corporation. We continually strive to maintain the highest level of consumer satisfaction and appreciate your interest in Mattel. Thanks again, Mattel Consumer Relations"
      RustyShackelford
      • 2 Years Ago
      They didn't even try, did they? Slam dunk, istm.
      tributetodrive
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ahh Icon, massively overpriced and now they want more $
        jeepwillyscj2a
        • 2 Years Ago
        @tributetodrive
        Yes business is about making money, Who knew?.... That being said it is clearly a rip off of Icons product the lizard logo is even still in the middle of the grill. And Icon makes a quality product far beyond what any 4x4 enthusiast could create in their garage. They have every right to sue Hot Wheels.
        xmailboxcancerx
        • 2 Years Ago
        @tributetodrive
        Are you serious? How do you not see this as a blatant case of pure thievery? Icon is now ENTITLED to compensation because Mattel decides to (1) steal artwork to use as their own, and (2) create PHYSICAL PRODUCTS based on it. They not only knew they had the ability in good conscience to rip off a much smaller company, they acted upon it. Lawsuit. Now.
        bahill99
        • 2 Years Ago
        @tributetodrive
        Whatever you think of Icon, what Mattel did is bull**** and you know it.
      The Other Bob
      • 2 Years Ago
      Considering the FJ is already knock- off of a Jeep CJ in everything including name, maybe Toyota needs to quit being hypocrits.
        duq1212
        • 2 Years Ago
        @The Other Bob
        Toyota isn't suing, Icon the specialty car maker is.
        jase.s
        • 2 Years Ago
        @The Other Bob
        Do you just see a pic of a Toyota and automatically assume they're in the wrong? This has absolutely nothing to do with Toyota. You're blatantly showing your bias.
          imoore
          • 2 Years Ago
          @jase.s
          Agreed. What does Toyota has to do with this?
        • 2 Years Ago
        @The Other Bob
        [blocked]
      landon
      • 2 Years Ago
      Didn't ICON steal "their" design from Toyota in the first place?
      Jonathan Ward
      • 2 Years Ago
      The issue is that they stole the image, took many unique design details and trade dress elements unique to ICON, and used the Federally filed Trademark without permission, then tried to play bully to make the issue disappear. They offered us $1500 dollars to go away. I know big fish like to dine on little fish, but I do not feel this is good business ethics. I reached out to HW about six months before they released the range of models and launched the series with my image on their website. After our cease and desist letter, they promptly removed the image.. Funny, because they never replied to my email, which had included that very same copy protected image. Also, mr. tributetodrive (any any that share his opinion), I am not a rich man. My wife and I built this brand from nothing but sweat and tears. I am proud to employ skilled American workers and provide them a great place to work with fine benefits, and we take pride to build our vehicles with the best possible content. It adds up and they are expensive. Sorry about that. I wish they were cheaper built I build the best we can, and then sell it at a fair and reasonable business margin. Plenty of companies start with a price target, then build to meet that. A lot of design and quality value gets lost that way. Maybe I went about it all wrong! Thanks for reading. I will shut up now. JW ICON
      Level4
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm with Mattel on this one. I'm 100% certain Icon does not have that design patented since it effectively can't due to it already being owned by Toyota. Last you need to change 35% to make it your own.
        PheelACCD
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Level4
        Even if you were right on the design, Mattel ripped off Icon's picture. The owner of the picture (whether it's the photographer or Icon) and the driver of the car (whom they left inside) can sue.
        Brandon
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Level4
        It's not the design, if that's ICON's patented products on a production car, then you can't copy those products. Pretty darn sure the FJ doesn't come from the production like with that bumper, those lights on top of the roll bar etc etc. The Shelby case was a little different then this.
        Nickerson
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Level4
        If ICON has a patent on their logo, can't they still sue? Mattel left the ICON logo in their ad.
      Andre
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hmm, hot wheels are made in China...seems that the auto industry over there has rubbed off on Mattel.
        imoore
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Andre
        Actually, Andre, only a handful of Hot Wheels are actually made in China (including the Happy Meal models, that is, if they can be considered real Hot Wheels). The bulk are made in Malaysia and Thailand, plus a rare few made in Vietnam. Ad like Al says, this has nothing to do with China.
        Al Terego
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Andre
        Nice try but in this case, the Chinese are just manufacturing from blueprints sent to them bye Mattel. It has nothing to do with China.
      Dark Gnat
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm also a Hot Wheels collector, but this is an obvious case of photo-swiping. Mattel should at least rename it, or release a repainted version called the Icon FJ40.
      IBx27
      • 2 Years Ago
      Bullying tactics have no place in business.
        jase.s
        • 2 Years Ago
        @IBx27
        This is the US. Bullying tactics *are* business.
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